Horse Racing
Absent Gibson raises his bat for a double century as Rattan roars home in dramatic Panasonic Cup

By Graham Cunningham
10/11/2018 19:07

Rattan quickens best under Chad Schofield to land a dramatic Panasonic Cup.
Rattan quickens best under Chad Schofield to land a dramatic Panasonic Cup.

Acceleration is perhaps the most priceless asset a racehorse can own and Rattan (126lb) used his turn of foot to telling effect at Sha Tin this afternoon (Saturday November 10) to land a Panasonic Cup that prompted delight for Chad Schofield and a powerful sense of “what might have been” from connections of the pair who chased him home.

Winning trainer Richard Gibson missed saddling the 200th winner of his Hong Kong career due to a trip to Europe to celebrate his father’s 80th birthday but can look forward to other major days with a gelding who quickened at the key moment to get the better of Conte and the Zac Purton-ridden Little Giant in a pulsating finish.

However, the reaction of those closest to the placed horses suggest that this is a race that may well have a significant bearing on plenty good races to come.

Runner-up Conte (118lb) had Umberto Rispoli bemoaning a wide draw which he felt cost him the race while paying a handsome tribute to “one of the most beautiful horses I’ve ridden in my life.”

Little Giant’s trainer David Hall hinted that two LONGINES HKIR options are still on the table after his troubled passage under 126lb from stall 10, but Schofield was left beaming at how “one of my favourite horses” erased memories of a frustrating, narrow defeat aboard Glorious Forever in the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse.

Purton had dictated to Schofield aboard Time Warp in last week’s feature but this time Schofield was able to settle into a perfect midfield slot as Little Giant edged his way across in behind from his wider stall.

Rispoli was forced to work hard to set a true pace aboard Conte from even wider out in stall 14, but the effort of doing so took a toll close home and Rattan swept by late to score by a neck with Little Giant the same distance away in third despite throwing down a highly impressive 22.12 secs for his final 400m.

Rattan gives trainer Richard Gibson the 200th win of his Hong Kong career

Schofield, clearly thrilled to have got one over on Purton this time, said: “Rattan’s been a great horse for me – that’s the fourth time we’ve won together – and he’s improved a lot.”

“I thought he was a live chance going into last year’s Derby. He didn’t quite get the trip there but he has a very good turn of foot over 1400m or a mile and I believe he could run next in the Chevalier Cup over a mile here on November 25.”

Chad Schofield and connections of Rattan accept the trophy for the Panasonic Cup.
Chad Schofield and connections of Rattan accept the trophy for the Panasonic Cup.

Rispoli was clearly frustrated to be collared late on Conte but was also proud of the way John Size’s powerful gelding battled on his first run since June.

“He’s an amazing horse and I think he would have won with a better draw,” he said. “That was his first run in Class 1 and his first run of the season so to do that from such a wide gate tells you how much ability he has.”

Hall didn’t have too much time to digest Little Giant’s performance as he was straight back into the fray with a winner as Matthew Poon, completing a double, forced Nuclear Power ahead close home in the Panasonic Kitchen Handicap (1200m).

However, the Aussie handler remains firmly of the opinion that Little Giant “lost no admirers whatsoever in defeat” and will consult with the Wizard Syndicate before deciding on whether to take a crack against the elite performers in either the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint or LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

“I think you have to say it all came down to the barrier,” he reflected. “You can only imagine how much closer Little Giant would have been early on with stall 3 rather than 10 and I have to think he could have won with the box seat run.

“It’s not the perfect scenario to think about going into Group 1 company after a defeat, but if he’d won today we would almost have been forced to go to one of the International races.

“Let’s see what the owners have to say but, put it this way, the question of whether to go for it will definitely be asked.”

Freedman finale ends on a positive note thanks to Whyte and Honest Way

Michael Freedman marked his final day as a trainer in Hong Kong with an emotional winner when Honest Way came with a perfectly-timed challenge under Douglas Whyte to land R2.

Whyte had promised he would help send the departing handler out with a winner during a midweek dinner and Freedman – returning to train in Australia for personal reasons – was keen to look forward rather than back as he reflected on his frustrating 15-month stay.

Honest Way and Douglas Whyte provide Michael Freedman with a farewell winner.
Honest Way and Douglas Whyte provide Michael Freedman with a farewell winner.

“It’s been a bit of a rocky road, for sure, but we’ll chalk it up to experience,” he said. “I’d love to have a horse good enough to come back here for one of the International races in the future – that would be high on the bucket list.”

Karis draws level but Zac fires back with the help of promising Lor pair

If the mark of a champion is how they respond to being challenged then Zac Purton stacks up pretty well.

Karis Teetan drew level with the Aussie at the top of the table on 24 winners when Danny Shum’s Clement Legend justified favouritism in R1, but Purton fired back by landing three of the next five races on Right Choice, Witness Hunter and You Have My Word.

Frankie Lor’s Right Choice looked a bright prospect when carrying the champion to an emphatic AWT debut in R3, while stablemate Witness Hunter (131lb) is another whose best days lie ahead judged on the way he held fast-finishing City Legend (129lb) in R5.

Witness Hunter gives Zac Purton and Frankie Lor their second winner of the day in R5.
Witness Hunter gives Zac Purton and Frankie Lor their second winner of the day in R5.

Lor said: “I was worried about Right Choice early on as Zac had to push him but he found his rhythm in the straight and I’m sure he will be suited by a bit further than 1200m in time.

“Zac said Witness Hunter was still looking around when he got to the front, but he’s only three and I hope he can continue to improve once he moves up to Class 3.

Benno Yung is looking forward to sending Pingwu Spark in against the best next week and celebrated another grey day with You Have My Word (127lb).

The seven-year-old is by the same sire as his stable star (Mastercraftsman) and was produced with precision timing by Purton to thwart Bring It On (124lb) in the last strides of R6.

Moore at the double thanks to Poon’s drive and “a gem” from Callan

John Moore described himself as “ecstatic” that his stable star Beauty Generation is now the world’s highest rated specialist turf miler in the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings and was given two more reasons to be cheerful by Victory Machine and Taking Aim.

Matthew Poon has run into trouble with the stewards this season but continues to prosper despite the loss of his apprentice claim and Victory Machine gave him his first winner as a senior rider with a last-gasp success in R4.

Poon rode his 14th winner of the season aboard Nuclear Power in R9, while Taking Aim recorded his first Hong Kong success with a decisive performance in R7, leaving Callan delighted to partner his fourth winner of the season.

“Neil gave him a gem of a ride,” said Moore. “In his track work Taking Aim tries to do everything too quickly but today he did everything right and I’m expecting another win out of him now he’s growing up.”

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 14 November.